Reading is a solitary pleasure. With the possible exception of reading aloud to a child, it really is an activity best enjoyed alone. Sometimes my daughter and I play “reading club” where we each bring our books to the couch and curl up together, but there’s no conversation, each of us lost in our own fictional world.
Love of books, on the other hand, is something that’s meant to be shared. Finding a kindred reading spirit, with whom you can discuss favourites and disappointments, exchange recommendations and anticipate a favourite author’s newest work, is a wonderful thing. To that end, I belong to two different book clubs, one that runs hot and cold, and the other now mostly defunct. I miss the conversation and camaraderie of those book clubs, not to mention the discipline of having a deadline to keep my reading on track. More on that in a separate post.
So I’ve closed the gap in other ways. At work, for example, I regularly discuss books with two different colleagues who both find ample time to read during their train commutes. (I fantasize about the Go train being essentially a library on rails.) One colleague, we’ll call her Liz (because that’s her name), is a bubbly and delightful millennial. In the beginning of our book friendship, I had her pegged for a Gone Girl / Girl on the Train / Girl with the Dragon Tattoo type. Any thriller with girl in the title. But she surprises me regularly with the depth and breadth of her selections and I always enjoy our chats standing by her desk. She recommended Hausfrau to me and we had a brief but great discussion about the influence of Anna Karenina and the unhappy fate of being trapped in a loveless marriage.
The second colleague, KW, is a sophisticated and well-read Baby Boomer. She has an office with a door that closes so we get into it a little deeper. KW’s tastes run to historical fiction, as she enjoys the artistic license and speculation that authors employ to connect the dots between known facts and events. We both loved The Paris Wife and spent some time together daydreaming about life in Gertrude Stein’s Paris salon, rubbing shoulders with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and Ezra Pound. “Heady times”, KW said, shaking her head. “Heady times.”
Possibly my favourite part about these two mini workplace book clubs is the contrast. KW sends me books via interoffice mail with a handwritten note on her personalized notepaper: “Don’t be put off by the cover art. It’s a great read. Beryl Markham – what a gal!” Liz leaves books on my desk with no note but messages me later: “Read that book and don’t talk to me until you’re done. #BookClub4eva”
It just goes to show, book clubs come in all shapes and sizes. Reading may be a solitary pleasure but books are for everyone.